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Stretch run crucial for Volleyball

by Derek Clarkston, associate Sports editor


When the ball is in your court, you control your own destiny, and thats exactly the situation for the HPU Lady Sea Warriors volleyball team going into the stretch run of their season.

HPU (10-6 overall, 4-2 PacWest) find themselves in third place in the PacWest conference, behind Brigham Young University-Hawaii (17-2, 6-1), and Chaminade University (14-4, 6-2) with one conference game remaining against each team.

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The ball is in our own court, said Ahuna. We control where we want to be at the end of the season.

So far this season the Sea Warriors have a conference win over Chaminade, and a win and a loss to the University of Hawaii-Hilo (7-13, 3-4) and losses to and BYU-H which is ranked fourth in the nation whose only conference lost came by the hands of UH-Hilo. This parity between the teams in the conference sets up the heated race to the finish line.

Ahuna expected the conference to play out closely. Im not surprised about it at all. Everyone has great athletes in the PacWest conference, which makes for a strong conference. It raises everyone to the next level. Its great for everyone.

If HPU could win both its games against BYU-H and Chaminade plus their remaining five games, they could raise their regional ranking from ninth and be offered a playoff birth.

Im hoping that we beat BYU-H and Chaminade, because they are ranked in our region, so we can get regional ranked as well, said Ahuna. You need to be in the top three in the region to advance to the playoffs.

This year in the PacWest their is no conference tournament at the end of the season, so the out right winner receives the automatic bid into regionals. If the Sea Warriors dont come out on top, Ahuna said, they would have to be ranked second or third in their region to advance to the playoffs.

One thing that might hurt them getting into regionals is that the only non-Hawaiian team HPU has played that is ranked in the west region is Cal State-Los Angeles who dropped HPU in five sets. However Ahuna thinks playing in the PacWest conference will help the team get into the playoffs.

The PacWest is great competition. Having such a strong conference really helps HPUs chances of getting into the post season. It only makes everyone better, said Ahuna. The last time the Sea Warriors were not in the post season was in 1997 when the team went 10-11 under Ahuna, the only season she did not guide the Sea Warriors into the post season.

HPU has been led throughout the season by senior middle blocker Suzy Garbelotti who accounts for 36 percent (335) of the teams total kills, which also places her first in the conference and fourth in the nation. She also leads the team in digs with 159 and total blocks with 72.

Suzy played a phenomenal match in Hilo. She had 28 kills in three matches. She took over the match. She just dominated, and once you see that happen you expect it all the time, said Ahuna. We always have high expectations for Suzy, and now its even higher as she has raised her game to the next level, which is where we want her to be right now, because these next two games are very important.

Garbelloti though needs to be helped out on the court from the play of sophomore Sandra Brunke and Junior Teisa Fotu who have 132 and 122 kills respectfully.

"Theyre always going to be overshadowed by Suzy but they are the nucleus of our team. They play well,the team plays well, said Ahuna. The Sea Warriors begun this season with four freshmen starting. Now they are starting three, but coach Ahuna has been very pleased with the way they are progressing.

Vera Oliveira, who took over the setter position from three-time all-American Nia Tuitele has filled in nicely with 646 assists, averaging 10.59 per game, which places her fourth in the conference.

Ashley Elliazar is second on the team in digs with 142 and has 114 kills on the season. Mahealani Rawlins, who has started 13 matches, has recorded 115 digs, and Briana Marinas, who now comes off the bench, has 72 kills and 90 digs.

I think they are doing a fantastic job. Its tough being a freshman and coming into a nationaly ranked program and starting, said Ahuna. They can only get better from here.


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